June 06, 2008
It is with a sense of disbelief that one hears the Indian minister of state for defence, sitting in his cozy air-conditioned seminar room, pontificating that 'it is unbecoming' of former soldiers to protest against the treatment meted out to them by the government. So here's a non-soldier making a public protest. One hopes that it is not below the dignity of the minister to read this.
The minister would not have dared to make such a comment had the protesters been a part of his or his party's vote bank. The fact that the Indian armed services do not go public with their grievances does not mean that they do not have any concerns and the fact that they have been forced to come to the streets should make the minister and his government acknowledge how desperate the situation might be.
The Indian government is fooling itself if it thinks that by dragging its feet on the issue of the armed forces dissatisfaction with the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, it can make the issue go away.
A country that refuses to respect its armed forces will eventually end up getting forces that will not respect the nations' aspirations. A country makes a sacred contract with its soldiers that while he/she will lay down his/her life when called upon to do so, the nation will take good care of his/her and his/her family's needs to the extent its resources would permit.